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How following work zone safety guidelines keeps everyone safe

By: BridgeTower Media Newswires//July 31, 2023//

Sean Coykendall is vice president of Commercial Insurance and Employee Benefits Consulting for insurance brokerage Hub International in Wisconsin.

How following work zone safety guidelines keeps everyone safe

By: BridgeTower Media Newswires//July 31, 2023//

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It’s summer, when everyone’s out and about in cars, on bikes and on foot, and the weather is also ideal for road repairs after a long, hard winter. It’s also the season when the most roadway accidents occur, making awareness of the dangers of work zones a priority – especially for construction firms and their workers.

And that is especially true in Wisconsin, with a highway system that’s always in need of work. It ranks in the bottom 20 of all states for the poor condition of its urban and rural arterial pavement, 29th for its total per mile disbursements and 11th in overall fatality rate.

Fatalities and serious accidents associated with work zones are on the road nationally, and they aren’t only due to speed related crashes and rear-end collisions. Fatalities involving individuals on foot or bicycles are also growing – rising by over 20% in 2021 from 2020 levels.

Working together for better outcomes in work zones

Construction firms will be well-served in partnering with government entities in raising awareness of the risks and putting safety protocols in place.

Increasingly popular, for example, are enforcement zones powered by point-to-point cameras that monitor speeds in the work zones and alert drivers of their average speeds – slowing traffic over longer distances. These are highly effective whether a work zone is involved or not. One test on a Scottish freeway resulted in the speed limit being adhered to by 99% of drivers, versus 40% before installation.

The state of Wisconsin lays out range of safety provisions for work zones in a periodically updated field manual. It’s important to keep these provisions top of mind as contractors develop a traffic control plan (TCP) for the project before work starts.

What to consider for TCPs

Among the overarching considerations that should provide the context for the TCP are:

  • Surrounding environment. Is the work zone in a city, on a freeway system traversing the city or in a rural area? This influences safety considerations. In a city, the rerouting has to anticipate all types of vehicles from cars to scooters) as well as pedestrian safety. It also makes it important to plan for the unexpected, like animals running through the rural work zone at night and causing accidents.
  • The nature of the tasks on the site. This adds to the workers’ (and drivers’) risk exposure. Each task, whether installing signs, flagging, repairing utilities, paving or surveying should be evaluated for its effect on the overall safety of the worksite, with controls put in place before work starts.
  • Work zone characteristics. Lane closings can be confusing to drivers and changes in road surface can add to the dangers. Road markings may also change. This makes training workers on what to expect important, and to ensure there’s sufficient warning signage about changes in conditions.
  • Traffic flows. How much traffic – or how little – can influence work zone dangers. Numerous distractions, from speeding drivers to flashing lights to heavy equipment on the perimeter, can also distract drivers and workers alike. Traffic control plans are important for safety, as they can help manage the flow of construction itself, vehicles and equipment.
  • Traffic control systems. These systems, like point-to-point cameras are integral to a work site safety plan; placement should be carefully planned out to mitigate risk.

What’s involved in a TCP

Each work zone should have its own plan for safety that will raise awareness of the risks in the work zone to the public and workers alike. It should include:

  • A construction management outline. This involves a traffic management plan created early in the design phase. It outlines the impacts of the work zone on workers, drivers and pedestrians.
  • A temporary traffic control plan, setting out how traffic will be controlled during the projects, like flaggers, signs and traffic control devices.
  • A public information plan is also necessary for alert the public to upcoming projects that may impact traffic and travel routes.

Being aware of the issues and living by safety controls will go a long way toward maintaining good progress on what can be complicated and high-profile work zones – and keeping workers and the public at large safe in the process.


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